Blog Archive

rethinking family engagement

Almost a century ago, the Lebanese American poet Kahlil Gibran wrote:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. (The Prophet, 1923)


Gibran’s words capture perhaps the greatest paradox of parenting. On the one hand, parents are—and need to be—deeply attached to and invested in their children.

On the other hand, a primary task of parenting is to prepare children to take responsibility for their own lives and letting them go so they become their own best selves in the world. 

Author: Eugene C. Roehlkepartain PhD    Publish Date: 2017-Nov-22

rethinking family engagement

A few weeks ago, I led a workshop on family engagement for prevention specialists. I asked them what makes engaging families challenging. Here are some typical responses:

  • Families are busy.
  • The cycles of dysfunction in so many families.
  • Every family is different.
  • It’s hard to access families.
  • Families don’t want help.
  • Finding transportation to participate in programs.
  • The families we hope to reach don’t show up. We’re just  singing to the choir.
Author: Eugene C. Roehlkepartain PhD    Publish Date: 2017-Oct-19

engage families as partners

At many schools across the United States, it’s parent-teacher conference time.

Although being able to collaborate with parents is important, conference night can sometimes leave both parties feeling like they were unable to have a productive meeting due to the rushed nature and limited timeframe of the event.

Search Institute’s work with families has given us some insights on how to help teachers make the exchange on conference night more productive.

Our President and CEO, Kent Pekel, has tips for teachers who hope to make the most out of conferences in this video:

Author: Kent Pekel    Publish Date: 2017-Oct-19

engage families as partners

1. Instead of messaging to families, start with listening to families

In too many cases, efforts to engage families begin with policy makers, researchers, and professionals determining what families need to do, and then developing messages

that will generate “buy-in,” support, and participation.

But whenever we authentically take time to listen to and build an understanding of parenting adults and children through interviews, focus groups, surveys, and other methods, we are much more likely to abandon simplistic stereotypes or untested assumptions and partner with them in ways that are more meaningful and more effective

Publish Date: 2017-Sep-28

REACH case study

“Restless, unfocused and unmotivated” are the words Tiffany Abrams, a Special Education teacher at Pine River-Backus Schools used to describe her 7th-grade class at the beginning of the 2016 school year. According to Abrams, they had a difficult time being independent learners. 

Pine River is a town in northern Minnesota with a small population--only 944--but big pride in its school district. Educators within the district aim to inspire and uplift young people to become curious, capable and motivated individuals of the world. To do that, Pine River-Backus Schools decided to partner with Search Institute. 

Publish Date: 2017-Sep-07

Student motivation is a huge challenge. We know from our research that 69% of teachers say that student motivation is an issue in their classroom. We also know that intrinsic motivation declines continuously from kindergarten through high school. Motivational decreases happen in the jumps from elementary to middle school and from middle school to high school.

We’ve created a simple framework...

Publish Date: 2017-Aug-24

We know, from years of research, that gaining insight into middle and high school students’ social and emotional skills is essential for motivating them to become self-propelled young adults. So we have broken these skills into five simple areas:


Publish Date: 2017-Aug-24

Developmental Relationships

Youth and young adult members of the Shinnyo-en order of the Buddhist faith recently identified building development relationships as one of five critical aspects of peaceful leadership in their personal lives, in their temples, and in their communities beyond the temple.   

A Search Institute team is working with Shinnyo-en Foundation to develop a series of “Infinite Paths to Peace” Leadership Retreats to support youth and young adult members in finding their own leadership paths.  We started by conducting focus groups with affiliated youth and young adults.  Five themes emerged from those discussions.  Collectively, participants said a Shinnyo-en leader...

Publish Date: 2017-Aug-09

Building Relationships


The relationship gap. That phrase likely doesn’t mean much to you.

But in our research, where we seek to determine what’s inside the “black box” of relationships, the relationship gap is something that’s important to acknowledge because it gets in the way of many youth becoming thriving adults.

Publish Date: 2017-Jul-27

Building Relationships

Youth facing organizations have long recognized that relationships are essential components of work that produces valuable outcomes for youth. 

But at Search Institute, we have found that although many youth facing organizations believe that they are making relationships a priority, in actuality many organizations make them a lower priority than such things as curricula or program content.

In order to assess the priority organizations give relationships, Dr. Kent Pekel, our President and CEO, has developed a quick 6-question assessment to evaluate your own organization’s efforts to put relationships first. Here are the 6 questions:

Publish Date: 2017-Jul-27